DEVELOPING AN AGENDA FOR THE DEMOCRATIC HOUSE

With Democrats taking over control of the U.S. House in January, there’s a wide range of issues they might tackle. Even if many of the bills they propose, and hopefully pass, don’t become law because they aren’t passed by the Senate or are vetoed by President Trump, they will serve an important purpose. The bills will make it clear where the parties and candidates stand on issues and make the 2020 election, at least in part, a referendum on these issues. Furthermore, issues can be successfully addressed by attaching bills or provisions to must-pass bills such as those funding the government. This is a tactic that has been used for many, many years and has been used frequently by Republicans over the last 12 years.

A backlog of issues needs to be addressed given the decade-long gridlock in Congress and the federal government. A stalemate has prevailed ever since the Republican Congress declared in 2010 that it would not pass anything President Obama supported. It’s hard to set priorities and focus because there’s so much that needs to be done and many areas warrant urgent attention. I look forward to your comments on priorities among the following long list of topics:

  • Elections: stop voter suppression, make voting and voter registration easy, reform campaign financing (e.g., limit contributions, provide matching public funds, and require full disclosure of spending and donors), stop gerrymandering
  • Ethics: address conflicts of interest for Congress, as well as all federal employees in the executive and judicial branches; stop the undue influence of special interests through lobbying, the revolving door, and campaign expenditures
  • Health care: expand and strengthen Medicare and move toward Medicare for All; strengthen the Affordable Care Act (aka Obama Care); expand and strengthen Medicaid; improve health care access (including to women’s and reproductive health services); improve quality while controlling costs (including drug costs); move toward an efficient single-payer health insurance system; undertake a comprehensive and well-funded effort to address the opioid crisis
  • Retirement security: expand and strengthen Social Security, encourage individuals’ saving for retirement
  • Infrastructure: repair roads and bridges; repair and improve mass transit including railways and airports; provide quality school buildings for all children; repair and enhance water, sewer, and energy systems; provide universal, high speed, affordable Internet access; restore and enhance public parks; provide good jobs with good wages and benefits through work on infrastructure projects
  • Criminal justice system: eliminate racism, make the system more effective and efficient, eliminate for-profit prisons
  • Workers’ rights: strengthen the right to organize into unions and bargain collectively with employers; enhance domestic workers’ rights; guarantee meaningful work; raise the minimum wage; regulate part-time and contingent work
  • Family and child support: provide economic security by paying a living wage and providing family and medical leave, paid sick and vacation time, affordable, high quality early education and care, and an effective safety net; value and reward work in the home particularly caring for children and seniors
  • Education: provide high quality, affordable education from birth through career
  • Safety net: rebuild an efficient, effective economic support system including unemployment benefits, as well as food and housing assistance
  • Civil and economic rights and justice for all: protect and provide fair treatment for Blacks and people of color, women, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and the otherwise-abled
  • Gun violence reduction: require a background check for the purchase of any gun; ban automatic and semi-automatic guns, as well as high capacity magazines for bullets
  • Immigration: stop the separation of children from parents at the border and reunite families that have been separated; ensure that all children and other immigrants who are detained are treated humanely and have their cases processed expeditiously; define a path to legal residency and citizenship for Dreamers and other long-time, law abiding immigrants; create a guest worker program to allow immigrants to legally work temporarily in the U.S.; address the underlying conditions that lead to refugees, asylum seekers, and immigration
  • The environment: move forward with the Green New Deal, which supports the development of renewable energy and green jobs while aggressively addressing climate change
  • Tax policy: reform the Republican tax cut bill, make our tax system fair (for all people and businesses) and a vehicle to reduce income and wealth inequality, generate the revenue needed to provide the programs the public wants
  • Corporate and the financial sector regulation: ensure corporations and financial firms serve the public good; stop privatization of public goods and services; stop financial manipulation that enriches private interests while undermining workers’ jobs and retirement benefits; enforce and enhance anti-trust laws so corporations aren’t so big that they present risks to our economy if they fail or have the economic and political power to unfairly benefit themselves
  • Fair trade: ensure trade agreements protect workers, consumers, and the environment; control international financial manipulation by eliminating tax havens and ensuring all individuals and businesses pay their fair share of taxes
  • Balance military spending and actions with diplomacy and humanitarian actions

I will do future posts on some of these issues to provide more detail on the related problems and policy solutions.

In the meantime, I welcome your comments on priorities among these issues, details about them, and any other issues you think should be on this list.

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4 comments

  1. Kirtly P Jones · · Reply

    A terrific list. It is time for the Dems to pull up their big people pants and get to the work of the country. I might put infrastructure (clean water first), and environment up near the top as we are losing ground so rapidly on those fronts and they cross state lines. Then Tax policy, civil and economic rights, and voter reform. If the tax policy passed by the Republicans which highly favors wealthy and corporation were repealed, we could pay for infrastructure (and repairing water systems and bridges and roads creates jobs. Kirtly Jones MD

    1. Kirtly, I couldn’t agree more that it’s time for Dems to put their noses to the grindstone and get to work on behalf of the American people (not the wealthy individuals and corporations). Thanks for your priorities. I hope we see the House Dems put a stake in the ground on each of the issues you highlight and put them front and center now and in the 2020 campaign.

  2. Thanks, Richard! Any thoughts on where to start on that laundry list of issues? We’re all doing well. Hope you are too. Enjoy this holiday season!

  3. Richard Haines · · Reply

    Well said. We need you and like minded folks on Washington.

    Hope you and your crew are doing well.

    Enjoy the season.

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